Life is hard sometimes, as we’re all aware. A random analysis of any given week would present the various hassles we often come across: a flat tire, an unexpected expense, a flu that puts a dent in your plans for the week, an incomplete to-do list – you get the picture.
As a matter of fact, these challenges seem to multiply as we grow older. We assume we have it all under control, until we’re suddenly mired amidst one too many adversities and unforeseen hardships like major health conditions, loved ones suffering or passing away and the grief that follows, having to end a friendship, relationship breakdowns, to name but a few.
I’m no stranger to the realization that life will always remain unpredictable despite all my thorough planning, and there will always be contingencies which I couldn’t have scheduled. For instance, I thought I had mapped out my plans for 2020 to the last detail, when COVID-19 pandemic struck, and changed my perspective about navigating through life events entirely.
Not only did I have to cancel all my travel plans, but I lost an ailing grandfather who I nurtured a very affectionate relationship with. To add to my troubles, my gym, favorite hangout spots, friends and all social events we enjoyed became inaccessible due to the pandemic, leaving me feeling confused, restless and helpless. While I did still have plenty to be grateful for, life as I knew it had been altered dramatically, and I seemed to have no clue how to cope with such unprecedented times.
However, in hindsight, it seems that like billions of other people throughout the world, I went about navigating through life and overcoming challenges with determination and resilience. Indeed, staying resilient and maintaining a positive disposition during a rough ride can prove to be cumbersome. Nevertheless, navigating through life becomes easier when we accept challenges as a chance to rise above our insecurities and fear of change.
Sometimes, navigating through life with all its difficulties can seem like a daunting task. You may find yourself stuck with the feeling that you’re never good enough, or that life’s been unfair to you and you were cut a raw deal. Truth is, challenges arise in everyone’s lives, and no one can remain secure in their comfort zone for too long. But it’s entirely up to us as to how we go about to seek a happy, successful life.
Here are ten science-backed rules to help us navigate through life’s challenges head-on, so we can lead happier, meaningful lives.
Living in the digital era, it’s easy to get caught in the comparison trap and lose your sense of individuality sometimes. Indeed, authenticity in today’s technology-dominated times may seem like a risky move – especially when social media and other shaping forces in our lives, such as parents, teachers and peers may have told us to ‘fit in’ and conform – in order to feel a connection. As a result, we often hide our true selves due to the fear of rejection and judgment from others.
Confronting – not avoiding – challenges is a key way to navigate life
However, research suggests that authenticity is an integral part of happiness, and can boost one’s self-esteem, in addition to lowering stress levels. In fact, real, lasting connections are forged when we are true to ourselves. Indeed, cultivating your authentic self can seem challenging at first, but the rewards it enables you to reap – in the form of greater life satisfaction, strengthened interpersonal relationships, and a reinforced sense of purpose – make it all worth pursuing.
Life has a way of presenting us consistently with challenges that will assess our emotional mettle, be it in the form of injury, illness, loss, grief or an uncertain future. Accepting this can allow us to be fully present and relish the gifts we have in our lives this very moment, as we live each day with renewed appreciation, joy and lasting confidence in our own capabilities.
“The happiest people I know are dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems,” reveals Rosabeth M Kanter, founding chair of Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, and author of Think Outside The Building. In fact, Kanter suggests dividing our challenges into two categories: the ones we’re dealing with immediately, and those which give us a “chance to make a difference”. The latter helps us look at hurdles in a new light, making us better equipped for navigating through life with a sense of purpose.
Most of us are guilty of spending too much time ‘in our heads’ or being pre-occupied with our thoughts. According to research, humans are hardwired for negativity, which means that it’s natural for most of us to feel negative outcomes or emotions with a greater intensity than positive feelings. As a result, we end up navigating life with a penchant for overthinking, which can affect our mental health and stress levels adversely according to research.
“Overcoming challenges forms an important part of navigating through life, and the ability to view a situation from a different vantage point can allow us to learn a great deal about ourselves.”
To make matters worse, we often mistake overthinking for problem-solving. Whereas the truth is that rumination impacts our decision making, thus interfering with our problem-solving abilities. Instead of catastrophizing the challenges, you need to stop ruminating and embrace them as stepping-stones to personal growth. Acknowledging that you are not your thoughts will allow you to take control of your thoughts, and put a stop to the tedious mental chatter.
Stephen Joseph, professor of psychology and author of Authentic: How to Be Yourself and Why It Matters, suggests that we change our perspective and consider challenges as “an important part of growing and developing as a person”. Indeed, overcoming challenges forms an important part of navigating through life, and the ability to view a situation from a different vantage point can allow us to learn a great deal about ourselves.
Instead of living in denial in your comfort zone, we can gradually tune our minds to look at adversities as learning opportunities and face them head-on when they present themselves. Stepping back to get a better perspective, taking some time to clear your mind, and approaching the situation without rushing will enable you to gain newer insights.
Life can be a bumpy ride sometimes, and stress seems unavoidable given the daily hassles we experience, such as waiting times, unpleasant interactions with co-workers, deadlines, and failed plans. However, there is no need for a serious and skeptic demeanor all the times, and a little bit of humour and playfulness can go a long way to strengthen relationships and boost happiness levels.
Infusing some humour in your daily life is a great way to prime your mind for optimism and navigate life with a positive attitude.
We often tend to beat ourselves up when things don’t go the way we planned. However, this cycle of self-criticism and ignoring the pain we feel seldom makes us feel any better. Compare this with how you’d treat a friend with love, kindness and encouragement when they face failure. Researcher Kristin Neff suggests that channeling self-compassion during tough times is crucial for overcoming challenges with an improved sense of connectedness and emotional balance. Indeed, being kind to yourself and treating yourself with love and compassion can make navigating through life an easier, happier feat.
While everyone adapts differently to a challenge or an adverse situation, one rule that holds true for everyone is that it’s never too late to get back on track to achieve your goals. Avoid the temptation to give up – researchers suggest that deserting your purpose or circumventing your goals can be emotionally painful, possibly resulting in grief-related distress or even depression. Cultivating persistence pays off without fail, as long as you set realistic goals and continue to put efforts in the right direction.
Stay persistent and focused on achieving your dreams
You may have noticed how accomplishing goals makes us happy but only for a limited time, as we then move on to the pursuit of happiness in the form of the next milestone. Psychologists refer to this tendency as the ‘happiness trap’, wherein one maintains an unrealistic purview of happiness, in addition to constantly comparing their happiness levels with that of others.
“Being kind to yourself and treating yourself with love and compassion can make navigating through life an easier, happier feat.”
However, researchers and philosophers stress the importance of viewing happiness as a journey not a destination that needs to be chased relentlessly. Indeed, it’s important to take the time to pause and smell some roses along the way. Navigating through life gets easier when we view happiness as a choice we can make consciously, and cultivating happy habits that can raise our well-being levels in a consistent manner.
Difficult times warrant the need for human kindness more than ever, and it helps to treat others the same way we want to be treated. Expressing thankfulness, apologizing genuinely, complimenting others without an agenda, and offering support and encouragement in times of need helps strengthen our connection with others.
Developing a reputation for being grateful, compassionate and kind can help you build lasting relationships that you can depend on whilst navigating life’s difficulties.
Personal boundaries are a measure of your self-esteem and help ensure that you aren’t vulnerable to being used or mistreated by others around you. Devising and establishing clear, strong boundaries in place helps foster trust and loyalty, thereby strengthening relationships. Healthy boundaries are not just about being able to express your views and needs assertively but are also helpful for navigating through life in a more efficient manner.
As we all know from experience, life has its ups and downs. Most of also realize that we seek happiness, meaningful connections and fulfillment of our purpose as we navigate through it. Practising mindfulness, being accountable for your words and actions, developing an attitude of gratitude, and being present instead of worrying about the future can make navigating life easier – and more importantly – enjoyable. •
Main image: shutterstock/fizkes
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Fitness and healthy food blogger, food photographer and stylist, travel-addict and future self journaler. Sonia loves to write and has resolved to dedicate her life to revealing how easy and important it is to be happier, stronger and fitter each day. Follow her daily pursuits at FitFoodieDiary or on Instagram.
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